Sophisticated Voice Phishing Campaigns Dominate the Cyber Threat Landscape

Imagine you get a legitimate call from an unexpected number. Then, you realize later that the person who called you was a fraudster who deceived you into revealing your financial and personal confidential data. That is called a sophisticated voice phishing threat.

Advanced vishing tactics have doubled in the modern era, with a 40% increase in the last two years. These attacks use social engineering techniques to manipulate victims, resulting in identity theft and financial fraud. 

However, stopping these attacks is crucial, so you must stay alert, skeptical, and informed about the ever-evolving landscape of vishing attacks. This article details how vishing attacks work, distinguishes them from phishing and smishing, their prevalence and impact, notable examples, identification methods, and protective measures you can implement to stay safe.

What Is Vishing? How Do These Attacks Work? 

vishingVishing is a combination of Voice and phishing. It is a telephone-related criminal fraud that uses social engineering tactics to acquire access to someone’s confidential financial and personal data. In layman's terms, it is a cybercrime similar to phishing that uses traditional telephone or VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). 

A typical Vishing attack involves an actual person's voice, text, or vishing tools like caller ID spoofing and deepfake technology to trap the innocent. Vishing attackers impersonate trusted sources, such as banks or government agencies, but they come to steal someone’s private and sensitive information. Sometimes, They even create feelings of emergency or fear to drive victims into sharing personal data. 

Moreover, they also attack through phishing emails that lead individuals to dial a number to fraudsters who deceive them into disclosing private data. 

Phishing, Vishing & Smishing? What’s the Difference?

Phishing is the tricky art of eventually allowing individuals to divulge personal information such as login credentials and credit card numbers. Phishing attackers utilize email and fake websites that look completely legitimate, where the victim enters their personal information.

Likewise, there is another cybercrime, which is Smishing. Smishing is a combination of SMS and phishing. It uses SMS( Short Message Service) text messages instead of emails or voice calls, using fake text to trick victims into downloading malware and sharing personal and financial information.

Phishing and Smishing differ from Vishing's delivery approach to stealing personal information. Phishing attackers use fraudulent links in emails, whereas smishing uses SMS text messages. On the contrary, Vishing implements attacks via phone calls or voicemails, where scammers impersonate trustworthy entities like banks and government agents to steal personal data. 

Understanding the Prevalence & Impact of Vishing

vishing impact prevalenceVishing has been growing since the late ‘00s. It is not even stopping but growing every year. In 2019, Vishing attacks impacted organizations worldwide by 83%. In the same year, organizations in Spain went through a shocking 99% of vishing scams.  

According to a survey by the Healthcare Information and Management System Society in 2020, Vishing was the topmost place for cyber crimes, with 27% of records, among other crimes, coming from data breach

As per the Quarterly Threat Trends and Intelligence Report, vishing attacks have significantly increased, with cases skyrocketing by 550% from 2021 to 2022. Also, The cost of a data breach report by IBM in 2022 says the average vishing loss increased to $10.10 million, which reported the highest data breach cost in the past decade. 

With the significant rise in Vishing cases, an attack has many potential consequences, including Financial losses, data breaches, reputation damage, and psychological impact. Below are more details about the repercussions of vishing attacks: 

  • Financial Loss: Vishing attacks result in substantial economic losses for victims (organizations and individuals). Vishing attackers trick victims into disclosing sensitive financial information, such as bank credit card details. Therefore, revealing financial data results in fraudulent transactions and theft. 
  • Data Breaches: Vishing attackers are smart enough to reveal sensitive personal and professional information, putting data privacy at high risk. Scammers breach data to steal identities, gain unauthorized passes to accounts, and sell on the black market.
  • Reputation Damage: Vishing damages an individual or organization’s reputation. When a company experiences security breaches or financial losses, it leaks many of its customers' confidential data. Customers may then lose faith, leading to reputational harm.
  • Psychological Impact: Vishing attacks may have a psychological impact on victims. Victims may go through emotional distress, worry, and angst due to the loss caused by attacks. The emotional effect of vishing attacks can have a long-term impact on the victim’s mental health.
  • Compromised Security: Vishing attacks compromise personal and professional security, undermine trust in legitimate institutions, and disrupt online services. It can occur in different ways, such as unauthorized access by exploiting vulnerabilities in a computer’s configuration.

Notable Vishing Examples

There are many incidents relating to vishing attacks. Some of the recent and most notable examples of vishing attacks are: 

  1. AI-based vishing that used voice cloning technology to deceive people into sharing funds, as found in a $35 million cyber attack in September 2022.
  2. Vishing attackers use vishing apps like SecretCalls to impersonate law-enforcement authorities to deceive the victim in South Korea with a financial loss of $3 in March 2024.
  3. An older man fell victim and lost $100K to a vishing attacker who impersonated a PayPal employee in December 2023.
  4. Attackers psychologically manipulated a tech-savvy person, Richard Werner, with an emotional manipulation that resulted in transferring about €5,000 in funds and Bitcoin to the scammers in March 2024.

How Can I Recognize a Vishing Attack?

vishing signsYou must identify vishing attacks or scammers to avoid getting scammed or fooled. That is why we have curated the list of advice for you to recognize vishing or red flags to look for:

  • The caller needs confidential information: It might be easy to recognize vishing attackers since this is usually a tell-tale sign of vishing scams. They ask you to share them with your personal information such as name, date of birth, address, credit card number, or social security number, but you must never forget to stay cautious. Scammers might use the information they already possess to trick you into disclosing additional information, such as your job title or birth date. No matter what reasons they might give, simply refuse to share any of your details to protect yourself from potential fraud or identity theft. 
  • Call from Governmental agency: Whenever the caller says he poses a Trustee like Medicare, the IRS, law enforcement, or Social Security Administration (SSA), this is most likely Vishers unless you meet them. You should understand that no Government officials will contact you to request personal or financial information by phone, text message, email, or social media until you request to contact them.
  • Caller with an exciting offer: You or any of your nearby people most probably have had a moment of winning the 25 lakhs lottery. They ask for your personal and financial details to get the 25 Lakhs, which you should be sure is a vishing scam. So, you need to be aware of any call with an exciting lottery or offer because you will neither get 25 lakhs nor your money in existing banks.
  • Urgent Calls: You should always be alert if there’s a sense of urgency because scammers usually try to frighten, panic, and excite victims into complying. Do not surrender to those emotions. You must understand that the threats of account freeze and arrest warrants are susceptible to vishing attackers. So, you must hang up and investigate using a different device rather than believing in them.

How Can I Protect Against Vishing Attacks? 

In addition to learning to recognize vishing scammers, you must understand other things. You should also understand how to protect yourself and your organization from vishing attackers. Therefore, It is crucial to make sure that you know practical tips and best practices to safeguard against vishing attacks. 

vishing protection tips best practicesPractical tips and best practices for protecting against vishing attacks include:  

  1. Register in the National Do Not Call Registry: It reduces the risk of scam calls and the number of unwanted calls from legitimate companies. It also eases the process of finding suspicious calls from scammers.
  2. Don’t answer every Call: To protect yourself from scammers, you must practice not answering all calls. If you get a call from a business you use, just call them directly. Some caller IDs are spoofing, so you must review messages and call back to a known person.
  3. Hang Up:  If you ever get a hint of a vishing call, hang up the call. Remember, An actual client understands your reasoning for ending the call abruptly for security reasons. Scammers often depend on exploiting social niceties, so end a vishing attack in progress by hanging up the call.
  4. Don’t reply to voice-automated prompts:  It is vital not to respond to them to protect yourself from vishing attacks. Scammers may probably record your voice responses to navigate through voice automated phone menus linked to your accounts. They use your phone menus to find targets for future calls. So, you can avoid such a situation by not responding to automated voice prompts.
  5. Verify Caller ID: Vishing attackers spoof phone numbers to make it look like they are from a trustee organization. You should independently verify the caller’s identity and business using known contact information from official sources. The organization's website or documents can confirm the call's legitimacy. 
  6. Don’t Give Sensitive Information: Don’t share sensitive data, such as personal details like social security numbers, financial information, or medical history, to random callers. They can misuse your sensitive information, so just refuse to share it until you verify their identity.
  7. Employ Zero Trust: You should employ the zero-trust IT security model. This model requires the identity of every device and strictly verifies users before granting access to private network resources, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the network perimeter. 
  8. Establish Policies: Companies must establish policies on verifying caller IDs and the information necessary to reveal when, by whom, and to whom. This kind of policy lets employees know who to bring each request to and what the process is when an unusual request comes. Verifying identity will protect it from vishing attacks.

Keep Learning About Vishing Protection 

Vishing is a cybercrime that uses a calling method to access someone’s confidential information. Although Phishing and Smishing are identical kinds of fraud, they clash with Vishing regarding the delivery method. 

Vishing is growing with more advanced technologies like AI voice cloning and SecretCalls, leading to a $3 financial loss for South Korea. So, you need to understand a vishing attack by being alert to calls from demanding and unverified governmental agencies.

You must learn tips and best practices to protect yourself against vishing attacks. One way to do this is to understand the importance of being skeptical of unwanted phone calls and refrain from divulging confidential information over the phone.

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